It seems that of late I've been receiving more samples of New Zealand Pinot Noir than any other variety. It's the time of year, I guess - and time to make the most of this intriguing drink because in a couple of months the new vintage Sauvignon Blanc will be flowing like Huka Falls.
After knocking off all the Pinot Noirs that had accumulated a couple of months ago, the pile had mounded up again and it was time for another tasting. As there were too many to taste in one sitting I split the group into under-$30 wines and over.
There were 16 wines in the under-$30 line-up and after the tasting I was surprised. Surprised because just about every wine I tasted would have been worthy of at least a bronze medal. But more surprising was the number of wines from the 2004 vintage that took my fancy especially after being so critical of the vintage just two months ago. Last time that critique came from an under-$25 Pinot Noir tasting and some of the new vintage wines were far too confectionary. They tasted like cherry-infused lolly water and left a bitter-sweet taste in the mouth. But this time the lollies stayed away.
Granted some of the wines were quite light, wines that a certain colleague would call 'wimpy' but they were varietally correct and had pinot noir's delicate charm. However the best wines were anything but wimpy. And when they were unveiled I realised what a difference a few dollars made because most of my favourite wines were at the upper end of the price restriction - my top two wines only returning only cents from the $30 tendered.
Wine of the tasting was Gladstone Vineyard Wairarapa Pinot Noir 2004,
a richly coloured ruby red with ripe cherries, smoky oak and slightly herbal aromas setting the scene for a silky textured, savoury mouthful that flows with an earthy richness, a lovely marriage of sweet and tart fruit in the cherry and guava spectrum, spices and a mouthfilling chocolatey finish. Medium to full-bodied, it is quite dry with good acidity but beautifully balanced throughout. A wine with finesse and charm and possibly an excellent pointer to the quality of the vintage from the Wairarapa region.
Gladstone is a winery flying under the radar. It is situated in the heart of the Wairarapa, near Carterton, alongside the Ruamahunga River on the road it takes its name from. It is not far from Stonehenge Aotearoa , which is just a few kilometres south.
The grapes for the wine came from the first pickings of 115 and 667 clones from Gladstone's new 'George Vineyard' vineyard on river terraces in Dakins Road just to the north. It was a small harvest so was enhanced by Abel and Clone 5 grapes from the Pond Paddock Vineyard in Te Muna, east of Martinborough township. The hand-harvested grapes were crushed, cold-soaked then fermented and pressed into mixed age French oak barrels for nine months before bottling.
Christine and David Kernohan, who took over the vineyard in 1996, should be proud of what they have achieved with Pinot Noir. The previous vintage 'Gladstone 'Avatar' Pinot Noir, sourced from grapes at Te Horo north of Wellington, was a stunner. So this is two good vintages for them in a row.
Gladstone Wairarapa Pinot Noir 2004 retails in New Zealand for around $29.95 a bottle. It carries 13.8% alcohol by volume and is closed with a screwcap.
Find out more from the Gladstone Vineyard website.
© Sue Courtney
3 July 2005